Leave of Absence

she is clad all in silver

This was not how it was planned.

she is clad all in night

A billion voices scream as one. Instinctually I raise my hands to shield myself from the blow, though we fight with weapons so much greater.

It comes and I am thrown to my knees, souls and voices whipping away, my fires dying. Almost nothing is left of my mortal flesh now, my body a shambles of sinew and protruding bone. I lash out, bringing all my might to bear, and behind her, through her, thousands die, but she stands, unmoving.

Then it comes, like the blow of a great and merciless hammer, and I know I am undone. I understand all too well the words she is speaking, the words that hundreds now are chanting. The light dims and dies and everything is swallowed in a night that will never end. She is the last thing I see before I am flung from Earth.

she was clad all in blood

A million worlds pass me by. Other times, other places. Hell itself screams past as I fall deeper still, the minds of a dozen daemons witnessing my fall. With what fragments of my power still burn I reach out, groping in this infinite night, grasping for any foothold, but I barely slow my descent. Soon the lights of existence fade, and I am falling, and falling, surrounded only by void and the nameless things that roam there.

The end comes and I slam into it, the force of the blow shattering my soul across a dozen dimensions.

But that was so many years ago.

I have lost count of time. Dimly I know decades have passed since my confinement here in this place that is not a place, if my worldline is still even remotely parallel with Earth’s at this point. But there is nothing here to chart time’s passage, not so much as a heartbeat.

There is nothing here but me and what is left of my memories.

I have spent years piecing myself back together, and again I am mostly whole, though fragments of my mind and power still elude me.

Occasionally in their deepest nightmares mortal minds scratch the surface of this place, and come near enough for me to reach out and shout into their dreams. My words reach some, escape others. For the most part it is useless, but there is little else to do. I have tried to lift myself from this place but the full bulk of reality presses down upon me.

And then something changes. This place is buckling, shifting, tearing — I scarcely dare hope but then there is light and a path stands before me, wide open, and I ascend, silently jubilant at the skill and loyalty of my old employees.

I rise past a million worlds. Restored in my power I can reach out now, taking from them as I would. A small, mostly empty universe warps and collapses in on itself as I rip out a handful from its spacetime matrix, raw geometric material to repair and reinforce my battered soul. A thousand alternate timelines, all Contaminated, open up to me, and I bask in their power for a moment before rocketing upwards…

I am home.

The familiar geometry of my home dimension surrounds me. I feel my old body nearby, reduced to bone after so many years, and I slam life into it, flesh and blood and muscle and brain coalescing in a moment, and I plunge into its warm and welcoming depths.

For the first time in more than thirty years, I open my eyes.

I smell the familiar, salty tang of the sea.

I see a room full of men in red Armani suits.

“I knew I could count on you,” I say.

I am Charles J. Bloodhorn, and I believe if we all just work together, anything is possible.